The Spanish Armada: The Irish Experience lecture

On 21st September 1588, a vessel built in the Barcelona town on Mataró, filled with provisions and men, well used to the navigation in the Mediterranean, gave up in a terrible storm to inevitably sink in the beach of Streedagh Strand. More than four hundred years after, the recovered cannons from the wreckage site in 2015 are the most valuable arqueologic finding until date from La Juliana. But that vessel and that sandy area of Streedagh. With the Ben Bulben as a witness, keeps since then, other secrets…

Would you like to hear this story? David Revelles will share it with us in his conference The (other) secrets of La Juliana.

Revelles’ talk will be followed by Fionbarr Moore’s conference, The Spanish Armada shipwrecks at Streedagh Co. Sligo: Recent discoveries and on-going investigations by the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service. Moore is currently directing the UAU investigation of the Spanish Armada wreck sites at Streedagh, Co. Sligo.

The history of La Juliana will be presented, illustrating also how it might have looked originally. An update will be given on the on-going conservation of the excavated material in the National Museum of Ireland’s conservation facility in Collins Barracks.


Fionbarr Moore
David Revelles
Organized by
Instituto Cervantes (Dublín)
Embajada de España (Irlanda)
Collaborating Organization
National Museum of Ireland
Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

New sonar searches for Spanish Armada wreckage to take place in Co Sligo

Fionnbarr Moore told that this summer a sonar survey will take place on the area, to see if more items can be recovered from the wreckage. Only a handful of Spanish Armada wrecks have been identified from those which sank on the Irish coast – so surveys like this help to shed more light on this period of history.


Grange and Armada Development Association is delighted to welcome Fionnbarr Moore and Karl Brady to Sligo for the Lecture Series during the Celtic Fringe Festival 2016

Fionnbarr Moore is a senior archaeologist with the National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and he has been head of the Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU) since 1999. The UAU has a wide and varied work brief, dealing with development impacts on the underwater cultural heritage and maintaining the Shipwreck Inventory of Ireland. Investigation of sites also forms part of the work and UAU archaeologists have directed a number of dive surveys and excavations at significant wreck sites off our coast and in our inland waterways. Fionnbarr is chair of the European Archaeological Consilium’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Working Group (EAC UCH WG) and he is also a council member of the Royal society of Antiquaries of Ireland (RSAI). He has contributed papers and chapters to a number of journals and books on underwater archaeology and maritime history. As well as the above he has a particular interest in the Early Medieval and Medieval periods and has published a number of papers on early inscriptions and on the results of major excavations at Ardfert Cathedral, Co. Kerry, which he directed on behalf of the National Monuments Service. He is currently directing the UAU investigation of the Spanish Armada wreck sites at Streedagh, Co. Sligo.

The Armada in Sligo: An update on the Armada wreck La Juliana and her ordnance + the wreck known as the Butter Boat at Streedagh revealed

This lecture will present an illustrated update on research undertaken by Fionnbarr Moore, Karl Brady and Connie Kelleher on the bronze cannons, gun- carriage wheels, bronze cauldron and other elements of the wreck of La Juliana that were recorded and excavated by the underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU) of the National Monuments Service (NMS) in the course of its work at Streedagh in 2015. The finds from the excavation confirmed that the wreck was undoubtedly that of La Juliana, the Catalan merchant vessel commandeered by Philip II to form part of his Armada’s Levant squadron.   The visible elements of the La Juliana site were surveyed in detail and other aspects of the wreck, including structural elements, Iberian pottery, cannon balls and two anchors, were recorded in the process. The history of La Juliana will be presented, illustrating also how it might have looked originally. An update will be given on the on-going conservation of the excavated material in the National Museum of Ireland’s conservation facility in Collins Barracks, Dublin and an update will also be provided on recent research carried out by the UAU on these artefacts.

The Butter Boat: dating and provenance: Recent dendrochronological analysis of the Butter Boat, commissioned by the UAU has indicated a date and provenance for the boat that ties in with a number of historical accounts relating to a particular 18th century wrecking event at Streedagh. While it can now be said with certainty that the Butter Boat is not associated with the Spanish Armada, the story is still a dramatic one, involving a hazardous sea voyage that gives great insight into the dangers and challenges faced by mariners on the west coast of Ireland during the period in question. The results of these latest findings will also be presented as part of the update on the UAU’s work at Streedagh.


Karl Brady is an archaeologist who has been working in the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service since 1999. Karl has responsibility for the management of the Shipwreck Inventory of Ireland and has undertaken surveys of several shipwrecks. Karl has published a number of articles on early maps, medieval ship graffiti, early medieval ecclesiastical remains, heritage management, logboats and shipwrecks and has also published two books on shipwrecks entitled The Shipwreck Inventory of Ireland: Louth, Meath, Dublin & Wicklow in 2008 and Warships, U-boats & Liners: A Guide to Shipwrecks Mapped in Irish Waters in 2012. More recently Karl has been directing the underwater archaeological excavations of a number of newly discovered logboats from Lough Corrib Co. Galway and is part of the UAU team investigating the Spanish Armada wreck sites at Streedagh, Co. Sligo.

The Armada in Mayo:

Mayo’s long standing maritime tradition is as strong today as it ever was and manifests itself in many ways ranging from active coastal communities and recreational use of the sea to a vibrant fishing industry. One of the most important aspects of this tradition is its maritime cultural heritage and in this regard of particular interest are the wrecks of the Spanish Armada which lie scattered along its jagged coastline. It’s estimated that up 6 Armada vessels lie lost in the waters off the Mayo coast but the location and identity of many of these wrecks has yet to be revealed. This talk will provide an overview of the known archaeological, historical and folkloric information regarding each wreck site with a particular focus on the better known examples of La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada, lost in Blacksod Bay and El Gran Grin, lost in Clew Bay. The talk will also give an illustrated overview of recent dive and geophysical surveys carried out by the UAU in an attempt to locate the sites of these elusive wrecks!


Grange and Armada Development Association is delighted to welcome Mícheál de Mórdha to Sligo for the Lecture Series during the Celtic Fringe Festival 2016

MugMdeM2.jpgMícheál de Mórdha is the recently retired director of the OPW Great Blasket Centre, which is situated in Dún Chaoin, West Kerry.  He is a native of Dún Chaoin and, except for a few years in employment  in Dublin,  has spent most of his life up to now living and working in his native patch.

He was appointed manager of the  newly built Centre in 1993,  and prior to that he was employed by RTÉ as a Clár Reachtaire (producer/broadcaster) with Raidió na Gaeltachta at their station in Baile na nGall. He has also done some work for television, especially for TG4.

In  late 2015 his book on the social history of The Great Blasket Island: An Island Community – The Ebb and Flow of The Great Blasket Island (Liberties Press, Dublin) was published and currently he is in the process of writing a book on the theme: Blasket Shipwrecks.

Amongst his other passions are traditional music and song, especially ‘sean-nós’ singing; Irish language and literature and The Western Isles of Scotland.

He was President of Oireachtas na Gaeilge in 2010.

The Armada in Kerry: A Local Perspective of the Wrecking of the ‘Santa Maria de La Rosa’ in Blasket Sound. Some facts, folklore and enigmas

In this talk we examine the facts and the fiction connected with the sinking of a large Spanish Armada ship, the Santa Maria de La Rosa, of the Guipuzcoan  squadron, in Blasket Sound, on  21 September 1588. There were several different  witnesses to this tragedy: at least two other large Armada ships; a youth called Antonio, perhaps the only survivor from the Santa Maria de la Rosa;  and also from the representatives of British forces on the mainland.

We also examine the folklore surrounding this sorrowful event especially the once common belief that ‘the son of the King of Spain’ lies buried in Dún Chaoin, opposite the Blasket islands, having been drowned in the Sound with a lot of other ‘tall men’.

Then we look at the reported discovery of the wreck of the Santa Maria de La Rosa by a team of divers in the late 1960s and the excitement and the enigma attached to these reports.

But perhaps the saddest story of all is that of Don Juan Martinez de Recalde’s, admiral of all the fleet – a once acclaimed and noble navigator, who found himself and his majestic St. Juan of the Portuguese  squadron, in dire straits in the lee of the Blasket island for a few days in September 1588, before he narrowly escaped the clutches of a severe storm to return home a sick and broken man, where he died a few days after reaching his native shore….


Grange and Armada Development Association is delighted to welcome Dr Declan M. Downey to Sligo for the Lecture Series during the Celtic Fringe Festival 2016

Irish participation in the Armada of 1588: Émigré ambitions and Spanish strategists, and local responses

Dr Declan M. Downey, RAH University College Dublin

Abstract: Contrary to the traditional Anglophone historiography of the Armada of 1588 which regards Philip II’s invasion project as being entirely focused upon Elizabethan England, and that the disaster that befell the Armada on the Irish coast was tragic collateral damage, this presentation provides a corrective revision. Drawing from primary source evidence in the archives of Simancas, Brussels and Vienna, this paper will demonstrate that there was considerable Irish involvement in the planning and preparation of the Armada from as early as 1583. Also, it will explore and examine the significant roles played by Irish personnel in the Armada, and in its aftermath in the Spanish naval, military and political establishments. It will conclude with a critical assessment of local Irish responses to the Armada and its impact.

Declan M. Downey, LLM (Leiden), PhD (Cantab.), lectures in Modern European & Japanese Diplomatic History at University College Dublin, where he coordinates the BCL Law with History Degree programme. He is the first Irish citizen to have been elected to membership of the Spanish Royal Academy of History in 2009. His research and publications on Irish relations with the Spanish and Austrian Habsburg monarchies, have achieved international awards and distinctions. In 2008, King Juan Carlos I conferred the Encomienda en la Orden de Isabel la Católica on him. Dr Downey is the CoSecretary of the Council for Spanish-Irish Historical Studies, and he is a Trustee of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Grange and Armada Development Association is delighted to welcome Dr Connie Kelleher to Sligo for the Lecture Series during the Celtic Fringe Festival 2016

The Armada in Donegal:

The wild and remote coast of Atlantic Donegal was not kind to the Armada ships and their crews that found their way there in the storms of 1588. Though numbers vary as to how many of the Armada were wrecked, what can be said with certainty is that many ships and even more lives were lost – both at sea and on lonely shores. Archaeological investigation has taken place at the known wreck site of La Trinidad Valencera both by Dr Colin Martin and later by the Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU), with results informing on the richness of such sites that has further elucidated on the ship, its crew and the wealth of a nation.

Anecdotal, historical and at times artefactual evidence from other areas, like that in Loughros Bay, Mullaghderg, Castle Island and Rutland harbour, tease at our curiosity as to whether a wreck is located there or not – and if so, then where exactly? New wreck site similarly can seem to fit perfectly with the historical accounts of the loss of an Armada wreck, like the Rutland Island Wreck that was the focus of extensive excavation by the UAU over a five year period, but which itself remains shrouded in mystery, refusing still to reveal its true identity.

The paper will provide an overview of the Armada in Donegal, with particular details on known sites and, like that for the Armada losses around the rest of the Wild Atlantic Way, it will show that while many questions have been answered, many more remain.

Dr Connie Kelleher is a member of the Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU), National Monuments Service since 1999. Connie’s work has allowed her to direct archaeological surveys and excavations, including maritime landscape studies, post-medieval coastal archaeological sites and direct work on a number of specific wreck sites ranging from the 1588 remains of the Spanish Armada ship La Trinidad Valencera; an early 17th-century possible pirate vessel in West Cork; the early 17th-century wreck near Rutland Island, Burtonport in Donegal; the possible remains of one of Cromwell’s Parliamentarian ships, Great Lewis, in Waterford Harbour, to the 1697 remains of the HMS Looe in Baltimore, Co. Cork and most recently as part of the UAU team investigating the Spanish Armada wreck sites at Streedagh, Co. Sligo.

A graduate of NUI Cork, her doctoral thesis from Trinity College Dublin looked at ‘The Confederacy of Pirates in Southwest Ireland in the Early 17th-Century: Trade, Plunder and Settlement – a historical and archaeological study’. She lectures part-time in the Archaeology Department in University College Cork, delivering the ‘Introduction to Underwater Archaeology’ course. Connie has published articles and chapters in books on her work to date.

A past council member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland (RSAI), she currently sits on the board of the International Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA). She is a member of the European Scientific Diver Panel (ESDP), is currently chair of the Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) and a member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (MIAI)

Grange and Armada Development Association is delighted to welcome Dr Bob Curran to Sligo for the Lecture Series during the Celtic Fringe Festival 2016

A native of County Down, Northern Ireland, Dr Bob Curran has worked in a number of jobs including grave-digger, lorry driver and journalist He has travelled in a number of parts of the world before returning and taking up work in education. He has also written a number of books on history and folklore which have been translated into several languages including French, Hebrew, Korean, Portuguese and of course Spanish. He currently lives on the Causeway Coast with his wife and family.

The Armada on the Causeway Coast

Whilst many of the Armada shipwrecks occurred in the Irish Republic, the Northern shores were not exempt. One of the greatest, and most tragic maritime disasters of this time occurred off Dunluce Castle, Co. Antrim with the loss of La Girona – the fabled Armada treasure-ship. And this may not have been the only Armada disaster in this area. Also discussed will be survivors such as Francesco de Cuellar and Pedro Blanco. Because the North has connections with Scotland it is proposed to historically examine links to the San Juan de Sicilia, the celebrated Dons of Westray and the Quoy of the Dons.

Spanish Navy Ship to Commemorate Armada in Sligo


As part of the upcoming Celtic Fringe Festival, which commemorates Spanish Armada links with Sligo, a Spanish Navy ship will sail into Sligo Bay for the duration of the festival between September 22nd-25th next.

The OPV Centinela will join a flotilla of local boats for a Parade of Sail from Mullaghmore to Streedagh Beach to remember the 1,100 souls who perished there in 1588, when 3 ships of the Spanish Armada sank during Winter storms.

“The Parade of Sail will be an opportunity to remember all of the Spanish sailors who were part of the Armada, as we seek to continue to uncover one of the great untold stories of the history of this county,” said Eddie O’Gorman, Chairperson of the Celtic Fringe Festival ahead of this September’s events.

Boat owners interested in forming part of the flotilla to honour the Spanish Armada on Sunday afternoon September 25th are asked to contact the festival in advance on

The Parade of Sail will form the culmination of the festival’s events which this year will see a series of events and lectures take place in Sligo town, in Grange and at Streedagh. Many of the events are free to the public and include guided walks along the De Cuellar Trail, the route taken by the Spanish Armada Captain Francisco de Cuellar, one of the few to escape the English after the Armada. Other highlights include nightly music events, a series of Armada lectures at the Glasshouse Hotel, and a Gala Reception at Sligo City Hall hosted by Mayor of Sligo Marie Casserly to honour the Spanish Deputy Head of Mission of the Spanish Embassy to Ireland, Mr. Rafael Soriano, Vice Admiral Fernando Zumalacárregui, Director of Naval History and Culture and Director of the Naval Museum; Lieutenant Commander Miguel Adolfo Romero Contreras and Officers of OPV Centinela, Spanish Navy (Armada).

“The Spanish Embassy is delighted to be part of the Celtic Fringe Festival”, Ambassador Rodríguez-Coso said, “and the participation of OPV Centinela will highlight the fact that the Festival has great emotional value for Spain, since the Streedagh wrecks happen to be the resting place for more than a thousand Spanish soldiers and sailors”. “I would also like to pay tribute to the outstanding work of GADA (the Grange & Armada Development Association) in the preservation of the Armada Memory in Sligo. Due to unforeseen circumstances, and much to my regret, I will not be able to attend this year´s edition of the Festival but I am happy to announce that Deputy Head of Mission Rafael Soriano will represent the Embassy during this event”.

“It’s a great honour to have our Spanish guests of honour in attendance for the Celtic Fringe Festival,” said Councillor Casserly. “This is the second visit by a Spanish delegation to Sligo to commemorate the Armada, and we are delighted that they have decided to visit us again this year to take part in the events relating to their country’s history. This is another important chapter in linking Sligo and Spain and the history we share in relation to the Spanish Armada.”

Lieutenant Commander Miguel Romero Contreras, Commanding Officer of the Spanish Navy’s OPV Centinela said “we are thrilled to be part of this celebration and be given the opportunity to pay respect, together with the people of Sligo, to all those sailors who paid the ultimate sacrifice serving our country”.

3 ships, the Santa Maria de Visión, the Juliana and the Lavia, sank at Streedagh Beach following the Spanish Armada retreat from the pursuing English Navy during the Autumn of 1588. Last Summer, dives at Streedagh by the Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU) of the Dept. of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs recovered 9 cannon and several other artefacts from one of the sunken vessels, the Juliana. These artefacts are now undergoing a lengthy restoration and preservation process in the National Museum, Dublin.

“These were most significant finds,” said Fionnbarr Moore of the UAU of the recovery of the Streedagh cannon. “It was incredible to bring to the surface cannon and other items which had most likely never been seen since the Armada sank. The cannon, in particular, are in excellent condition, and the preservation process is now well underway.”

Following on from the discovery of the Juliana artefacts in 2015, news of their retrieval became a worldwide event. Extensive print, online and TV coverage followed, including in many of the Spanish national news media. A listing of these press cuttings can be accessed at this link.

The annual Celtic Fringe Festival takes place on September 22nd-25th next at various locations in Sligo, Grange, Streedagh and Mullaghmore, and further details on the programme of events are available at

OPV Centinela 01.jpg

OPV Centinela


Grange and Armada Development Association is delighted to welcome Dr John Treacy to Grange for the Lecture Series during the Celtic Fringe Festival 2016

Dr John Treacy is a former member of the Irish Naval Service who specialises in 20th Century Irish naval and maritime policy development. John was recently awarded his PhD in History at Mary Immaculate College under the supervision of Dr Maura Cronin. John lectures on Irish naval and defence policy for agencies such as the Maritime Institute, the National Maritime Museum, the Centre for Military History and Strategic Studies at NUI Maynooth and is a regular national and international conference contributor. He was recently appointed Honorary Research Officer at the Maritime Institute and the National Maritime Museum of Ireland. He is the director of the San Marcos Project and the current Chair of the Old Kilfarboy Society in Miltown Malbay. John is currently employed as a civil servant.

‘Another ship is cast in at I Brickane and lost, they had both men and munitions from Flanders’; Searching for the Armada in County Clare.

On 20 September 1588, two ships of the Armada approached the area now known as the Mal Bay on the coast of west Clare. One wrecked early in the afternoon somewhere close to the entrance of the Doonbeg Creek. Word of the disaster quickly reached Nicholas Cahane, the Coroner of Thomond at his castle on Scattery Island. Cahane immediately departed for the scene of the disaster and upon reaching the White Strand at Doonbeg, he observed a second much larger vessel in difficulty to the north, off Mutton Island within sight of the first wreck. Approximately 900 men lost their lives on that afternoon, most washing ashore on the forbidding west Clare coastline. Modern scholarship has attempted to identify the two vessels, largely by process of elimination (cf. Colin Martin & Geoffrey Parker, The Spanish Armada: Revised Edition (Manchester, 1999), p.261; Ken Douglas, The Downfall of the Spanish Armada in Ireland (Dublin, 2010), p.458; Niall Fallon, The Armada in Ireland (London, 1978), pp 36-42). The San Marcos Project seeks to identify these vessels using a combination of folklore, historiographical data, underwater surveying and diving.

Dr John Treacy is the director of the San Marcos Project, the search for the lost Portuguese galleon San Marcos of the 1588 Armada. The San Marcos Project is a community initiative founded in 2014 with the goal of establishing the identity of the ship wrecked at Mutton Island in 1588 and locating the final resting place of her crew. Since it was established, the project has carried out detailed sonar and dive surveys at the Mutton Island site and has conducted a landward archaeo-geophysical survey at the reputed Tuama na Spáinneach burial site at Spanish Point. The discovery of the wrecks and grave, coupled with the consideration of their context in the local geography, should cast a new light on the complex micro and macro political environment in County Clare and Ireland, during the Armada tragedy. John will discuss the reconciliation of folklore and scientific evidence in relation to the County Clare Armada narrative and detail some of the exciting results so far.

san marcos

San Marcos Project team members brief prior to a survey dive at Seafield, Quilty, Co. Clare